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Jodie Prenger at Birmingham Theatres in Dick Whittington and Shirley Valentine - Preview

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by Andy Coleman (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Birmingham. I like Classic Rock, 70s pop music, football and interviewing celebrities. Follow me on Twitter: @andycoleman9
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Double delight for fans of the West End star
Actress Jodie Prenger will be getting to know Birmingham very well over Christmas and into the New Year. The 37-year-old from Blackpool is one of the stars of the city's big seasonal pantomime at Birmingham Hippodrome from December 19, 2016, until January 29, 2017. She then returns to Birmingham on March 6 to headline the 30th anniversary revival of Willy Russell's Shirley Valentine at the New Alexandra Theatre.

Jodie Prenger, Birmingham Hippodrome, New Alexandra Theatre, Shirley Valentine, Dick Whittington, Pantomime, John Barrowman

Jodie is perhaps best known for winning the role of Nancy in the West End production of Oliver! through the BBC television series I'd Do Anything. Recently she toured the UK in the classic musical Tell Me On A Sunday. She also played the title role in the national tour of the musical Calamity Jane and has starred in One Man, Two Guvnors in the West End and on tour and as Lady of the Lake in Spamalot.

In the forthcoming Hippodrome pantomime, Dick Whittington, she is Fairy Bow Bells, alongside John Barrowman with whom she toured on his 2010 and 2011 concert tours.

Dick Whittington executive producer and director Michael Harrison says: "Jodie is perfect for panto. She has a fantastic voice, she is a naturally gifted comedienne and will add a wealth of West End leading lady star quality to what is already shaping up to be our biggest and best Hippodrome pantomime yet."

Jodie Prenger, Birmingham Hippodrome, New Alexandra Theatre, Shirley Valentine, Dick Whittington, Pantomime, John Barrowman
Perfect: Jodie Prenger with Panto Dame Andrew Ryan

The production also stars Steve McFadden, The Krankies, Matt Slack and Andrew Ryan.

Following the panto Jodie will tour the UK, starring as Shirley in Willy Russell's Shirley Valentine. Shirley is a Liverpool housewife whose children have left home and she makes chips and egg for her husband while talking to the wall. Where has her life disappeared to? Out of the blue, her best friend offers her a two week trip to Greece so she secretly packs her bags and heads for the sun. She starts to see the world and herself very differently.

When Shirley Valentine premiered in 1986 it took the world by storm and was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film starring Pauline Collins and Tom Conti. The revival, which is at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre from March 6 to 11, 2017, will be directed by Glen Walford, the director of the original production.

Of the revival, Willy Russell says: "It's now 30 years since Shirley Valentine first walked onto the page, into my life and the lives of so many others. Shirley cooked her first meal of egg and chips on the stage of the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, before then hoofing it down to London where along with the cooking and talking to the wall she started picking up the string of awards she'd win in the West End, on Broadway and in the film that earned both BAFTAs and Academy Award Nominations.

''Since those early days Shirley has had an incredibly rich and varied life, appearing in many tongues across the globe in countless productions and being performed by many great actresses. The one thing Shirley Valentine has not done of late is extensively tour the UK. There have been approaches and plans mooted but, somehow, it's just never quite felt right and so I've resisted such efforts – until now!

''And what has made the difference? When producer Adam Spiegel introduced me to Jodie Prenger I knew in an instant that here was a formidable actress, one who possessed the grit and the warmth, the drive and the vulnerability, the energy and the heart to make Shirley Valentine really live again.
How could any playwright resist that or deny the whole of the UK the chance to see Jodie bring Shirley to life?

Another Willy Russell play, Blood Brothers, recently ran at Birmingham Hippodrome. Read my review here.
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Why? West End actress Jodie Prenger stars in Birmingham - twice
When: December 19, 2016 - January 29, 2017 (Hippodrome); March 6 - 11, 2017 (New Alexandra)
Phone: 0844 338 5000 (Hippodrome); 0844 871 3011(New Alexandra)
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome and New Alexandra Theatre
Cost: Dick Whttington - from £15.50 plus fees; Shirley Valentine - from £15 plus fees
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